The polio virus was present in wastewater in a New York City suburb a month before health officials there announced a confirmed case of the disease last month, state health officials said on Monday, urging residents to be sure they have been vaccinated.
The discovery of the disease from wastewater samples collected in June means the virus was present in the community before the Rockland County adult’s diagnosis was made public July 21.
Laboratory tests also confirmed the strain in the case is genetically linked to one found in Israel, although that did not mean the patient had traveled to Israel, officials added. The nonprofit Global Polio Eradication Initiative last week said initial genetic sequencing also tied it to samples of the highly contagious and life-threatening virus in the United Kingdom.
The patient had started exhibiting symptoms in June, when local officials asked doctors to be on the lookout for cases, according to the New York Times.
“Given how quickly polio can spread, now is the time for every adult, parent, and guardian to get themselves and their children vaccinated as soon as possible,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said.
There is no cure for polio, once one of the most feared diseases given its ability to cause irreversible paralysis in some cases, but it can be prevented by a vaccine made available in 1955.
New York officials have said they are opening vaccine clinics to help unvaccinated residents get their shots.
Polio is often asymptomatic and people can transmit the virus even when they do not appear sick. But it can produce mild, flu-like symptoms that can take as long as 30 days to appear, officials said.
It can strike at any age but the majority of those affected are children aged three and younger.
Representatives for the New York health department could not be immediately reached for more details on the wastewater findings. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also did not immediately return a request for comment.
The polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk in the 1950s was heralded as a scientific achievement to tackle the global scourge, now largely eradicated nationwide. The United States has not seen a polio case generated in the country since 1979, although cases from a traveler and an oral vaccine were found in 1993 and 2013.